There’s nothing wrong with a little financial education, but is that what Alberta students will be getting from the grade school “financial literacy” curriculum Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced at a news conference on May 5?

LaGrange said the United Conservative Party (UCP) government will pour $5 million into three organizations to provide what her potted quote in the government’s news release called “future entrepreneurs, innovators and creators” with “much-needed financial knowledge and skills for personal and professional success.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear this kind of expenditure of public funds described as an “investment” it sets my nose twitching for the source of the stuff sprayed on the fields just west of my little house on the Prairie. 

So who or what are these organizations that will supposedly be providing financial literacy “learnings” for Alberta students? 

Something called the Enriched Academy will receive $900,000 per year over the next three years to “provide students in grades 7 to 12 with financial literacy programming on topics such as money management, budgeting, credit and student loans.”

Enriched Academy, seemingly sometimes presented as EnRICHed Academy, appears to be a private company, not an academy, that sells pre-packaged courses about money. Its website is remarkably uninformative. There is very little information about it from neutral sources. Nor is the government’s news release particularly helpful. 

A non-profit organization called the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) will be given $500,000 a year for the same stated purpose. Like the academy, little balanced information from neutral sources appears to be immediately accessible about the CFEE.

However, it appears to be somewhat more transparent. There seem to be lots of people connected to the financial services industry on its board and staff. There are a few with ties to both the federal Liberal and Conservatives parties. Union officials? I didn’t notice any. 

Who bankrolls it – other than Alberta taxpayers now – is not immediately clear. Banks and financial services companies certainly play a role, judging from its website. Perhaps this can be cleared up in the days ahead. 

The CFEE, fortunately, does not seem to be associated with the Foundation for Economic Education, the libertarian U.S. think tank founded in 1947 in hopes of rolling back the policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Still, I don’t imagine the CFEE will be teaching Alberta students about the benefits to Canada of a Green New Deal or a Just Transition any time soon.

Finally, Junior Achievement Southern Alberta will receive $250,000 a year for three years to “provide young learners in grades 3 to 6 with hands-on, experiential financial literacy programming, work readiness and entrepreneurship education.”

These are also phrases that should set alarm bells ringing among financially literate people who pay attention to the activities of right-wing governments. 

Unlike the other two, JA has a Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, according to the folks who run the Wikipedia, the article about the international organization of that name “contains content that is written like an advertisement,”or may even “have been created or edited in return for undisclosed payments.”

We do know, though, that JA Worldwide was a key part of a fightback effort by the U.S. National Association of Managers in the 1940s to counter the legacy of the New Deal and inculcate young people with enthusiasm for corporate capitalism.

To its credit, JA Southern Alberta is transparent about its mostly corporate donors – who, according to its website, are its only source of revenue. Which makes all of us Albertans, I guess, JA donors too, double-donors if you happen to live in Chestermere, Nanton, Kneehill County, Cochrane, Strathmore or a few other Alberta communities. 

The three organizations will reach more than 360,000 students with their program, the government press release boasts. 

The release doesn’t say if the curriculum materials developed by the three organizations will be properly vetted by curriculum professionals for accuracy and balance. As we have seen with the government’s controversial and highly ideological K-6 curriculum changes, the UCP doesn’t pay much attention to curriculum professionals anyway. 

Will Albertans be getting good value for this “investment?” It’s too soon to say. 

Will Alberta students be getting genuine financial literacy tools or corporate propaganda? Probably a bit of both.

What will they be told about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, if anything? God only knows. 

And since, according to the UCP Government, parents know best how their children should be educated, will parents have the option of pulling their children out of these programs if they find them to be biased and propagandistic? Don’t count on it. 

ATA assails Bill 15 as ‘profoundly damaging’

While LaGrange trilled Wednesday about how pleased she was by the passage of Bill 15, legislation that strips the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) of its regulatory role and hands it to a government appointee, ATA President Jason Schilling yesterday said the change “will be profoundly damaging to one of the world’s best education systems.”

“Albertans should be very concerned that this bill was passed based on unfounded allegations propelled by lies and misinformation,” Schilling said bluntly in a news release

“Bill 15 is an effort to punish the association and teachers for daring to stand up to the government’s bad decisions when it comes to education, and to coerce us into complying with their agenda, but we will not waver,” he said. “We will continue today and into the future to stand up for students, for teachers and for public education.”

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...